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 July 7, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 13   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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A beacon of light
Reading so many misgivings some people have expressed regarding the Cathedral of Christ the Light makes me wonder why so much controversy when millions of dollars are spent on the Olympics, homes and business ventures.
I sincerely feel Oakland needs that cathedral as a beacon of light in a world turning toward the dark.

Kathy Ramirez

Focus on needs

Every time I have to pass the new cathedral I get upset and question why the Catholic Church needs to spend so much money on that huge, odd-style building. I wish someone can convince me that it’s truly a necessity.

There are many people who need that money from the faraway destitute villages of Africa to the starving children of Asia. And what’s worse, we have people who need help here in America.

Some of the money spent could have been divided among the parochial schools, and even the senior citizen groups are worth helping. All of the above keep asking for donations to help them survive. I am tired of trying to keep up with all those solicitors asking for money to help this cause and that.

Someone, please explain to me why?

Roberta Cordova

A free-will offering

I want to respond to Patrick Embody’s letter (Forum, June 23). He seems offended that a parish collection will be taken up for the new cathedral. I agree that there are many needs for our charitable giving, but one shouldn’t criticize one because another is considered “worthier” or of more importance to the donor. No one is asked to “bear a burden.”

Any collection is an opportunity for a free-will offering. Parish collections are not demands — in my parish we have an additional “special collection” practically every weekend; they are the means by which people can support those causes they choose and to the degree that they choose.

The funds that built the cathedral were specifically for that purpose; they weren’t funds that otherwise would have gone to the poor. Likewise, building the cathedral has no connection whatever with the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.

With this special collection, those who want to be a part of it have the opportunity to make a contribution. I suppose those who wish to contribute to the cathedral as a unique and special way to “give something back to God” or to distribute the funds they have earmarked for charitable giving can write a check any time, but an announced collection does make it convenient and easy.

Bob Kelleher

Redirect donations

Am I the only reader who sees the irony in the June 23 issue of The Voice?

On the cover page is a photo of the new Cathedral of Christ the Light and an explanation of the 20-foot wide-steel cross, inlaid with Brazilian hardwood, being set into place atop the front entrance of the glass edifice. On page 3 are all the sad faces of the children saying goodbye to their fellow classmates due to their school, St. Barnabas in Alameda, closing.

With some of our elementary schools closing along with some of our parish churches, it saddens me that the exorbitant amount of money spent on this new glass edifice could not have been redirected. I am aware that the funding for the cathedral came from private sources. Perhaps some of these private donations should be directed to our youngsters enrolled in parochial schools.

Perhaps I am overlooking the need of a glass cathedral being built in a community where many churches are available. Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Jarlath, St. Lawrence O’Toole, St. Margaret Mary, to name a few.

I am very grateful that I did not donate my hard earned money to a cathedral fund. My extra donation money is sent to St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room in Oakland, which feeds many meals daily and many to youngsters who get their only substantial meal of the day there.

Sometimes I think we forget that Jesus was born in a stable. Suffer the little children….

Maureen Mullen
Walnut Creek

Spend money on children

I am upset when I see a beautiful cathedral coming up and sobbing children crying over losing their school (Voice, June 23). Is there no money for our own children? Could Catholic Charities and other Catholic organizations donate or float loans for these schools?

“Suffer the little children to come to me.” Is this is what is meant by “suffer”? Our future generations are being ruined. And there is no remedy in the richest country in the world for its most valuable resource. We could be losing another Tim J. Russert. Who cares?

Lillian Silver
Walnut Creek

A community for all

The report of the parents of an autistic 13-year-old boy receiving a restraining order that prohibits them from bringing their son onto the property of their church in Minnesota (Voice, June 9) brings to light the need for catechesis and pastoral ministry for children with special needs, for their families, and for the pastor and parishioners. These four groups are found in every parish; they need the support of the diocese and the Church to build bridges so all are welcomed in our liturgy.

“The Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities” states: “For most Catholics the community of believers is embodied in the local parish. The parish is the door to participation for persons with disabilities, and it is the responsibility of the pastor and lay leaders to make sure that this door is always open.”

Here in the Oakland Diocese we respond through SPRED (SPecial Religious EDucation), which uses the method “Vivre,” a specialized catechesis that builds on mutual friendship between dedicated, trained volunteers and persons with special needs within the setting of a small faith community where they come together to share and grow in their faith.

A place of belonging is created where catechesis and liturgy are experienced; with time and patience our friends with severe disabilities are able to participate in parish liturgies. It is often a time when many are able to see one another with new eyes. With the support of the parish and the pastor, relationships are established so that the disabled, their family, and the parish community can fully receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

In the pastoral plan for the Oakland Diocese, Bishop Allen Vigneron writes, “By 2013, with the help of God’s grace, we look to see the Church farther along the path of renewal charted for us by the Second Vatican Council—a community of faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, sharing His light with all peoples.” The plan defines evangelization as: “The zealous proclamation of the Gospel in order to bring others to Christ and his Church.”

The 13-year-old autistic boy and his parents heard the Good News and came to their church. Now it becomes the responsibility of the diocese, pastor and lay leaders to provide programs like SPRED so that the parish is equipped to welcome everyone to the Table of the Lord.

It is my hope that every parish in the Oakland Diocese is prepared to follow the words of the U.S. bishops, “No one would deny that every man, woman, and child has the right to develop his or her potential to the fullest. With God’s help and our own determination, the day will come when that right is realized in the lives of all persons with disabilities.”

Parents of children with disabilities have accepted a task far beyond the norm. May fear and ignorance be replaced by education and inclusion that says to our friends with disabilities and their families, “Welcome, you belong here.”

Sister Aurora Pérez, SHF
SPRED Center

Created gay and loved
As the parent of five children, one of whom is a lesbian, I was led, 15 years ago, into ministering with GLBT Catholics and their parents. Thus I can understand the initial confusion and difficulties experienced by Pam Brady (Forum, June 23) when she first learned that her son is gay. I am glad she understands that he is a precious creation of God and, like all of God’s children, has his own unique qualities.

One of those many qualities is his sexual orientation (not “persuasion”), but I was heartsick when she went on to imply that his being a gay man is equivalent to being an alcoholic. He was created and born gay; he is not pre-disposed to an undesirable condition that needs to be suppressed or overcome. Who he is, is her child, and he deserves all the love and support a parent can give him.

Gay marriage issues aside, our backgrounds and lifelong conditioning from family, friends, church, and the media have created in us an unnecessary fear and rejection of who our GLBT children are. I ask her to step back from what others say and have said, and just look at her son, the one she loved before she knew this particular aspect of his being, and whom she says she loves now, and see him with a mother’s heart. Then ask herself if she can honestly reject any part of him or will she truly support him, and never waiver in her love for him.

I encourage her to talk with her son about all of this and believe him, not those who do not know him but tell her there is something wrong with him. There is not.

Michael Harmuth, chair
Oakland Diocese Outreach Ministry
with GLBT Catholics

Replacing God’s laws

Most of us have a family member, neighbor, co-worker or member of the congregation who is gay. We just accept them as they are. This is why it is going to be so very difficult to pass a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting gay marriage. It requires each voter to go against what is convenient, friendly, expedient and trendy.

I walked door-to-door in the suburbs encouraging people to vote for parental notification that their child was having an abortion. (A no-brainer you would think; but, it didn’t get the votes of parents in the suburbs.)

I was confronted by teenagers at the door and on the street. They did not want it. Their parents are off to work early every morning. Evenings, mothers are busy with traffic, grocery shopping and cooking, and dads get home late. They don’t want to argue or have to discipline children. They think: Can’t we just get along? So, they go along.

The teenagers, with their mindset, values and behavior, dominate conversation. Why can’t they marry whoever they want? Are you against freedom and equality? It takes a strong parent and voter to say that we can’t always get what we want and shouldn’t if it is not good for us.

The radicals will use government legalities to displace God’s laws, not just in society but in His holy sanctuary. This is an attack on the family, society and religion. It also undermines the legitimacy of government. A person with foresight will see that there are powers and dominations at work here and yes this “change” will be the end of the world as we have known it.

Turning this around will require more than your vote in November. An Amendment to the U.S. Constitution will be needed with a favorable Congress and 34 state legislatures as well. What have you got to lose? Will you serve God or Mammon?

Michael McCarthy
Via email

Need for tolerance

The fear-mongering Bishop Vigneron put forth in his “In His Light” column (Voice, June 9) is shameful. Now more than ever we Catholics need to be at the forefront of tolerance and, more importantly, understanding.

The bishop says if we allow gays to be married “our way of life will become counter-cultural.” Nonsense. The idea that extending freedom to others will change our way of life is foolish as is the notion that God laid out a uniform plan for everyone to follow.

This goes against the very nature of our faith. Let us not forget that Jesus Christ associated with all walks of life. In fact, he seemed to favor those who others stood so piously in judgment of.

Also, although Bishop Vigneron makes it seem like he speaks for everyone in his diocese, he absolutely does not. There are many differing opinions on this (and other) matters and for him to make it seem as though his statements are made on behalf of “Your priests”, “deacons”, “and our other co-workers” is a sneaky and irresponsible way to spread the blame for his rhetoric.

If you were upset by the bishop’s statement, do not be discouraged or allow your faith to wane. The wonderful thing about faith is that among those who have it, no one person is more qualified to speak than anyone else. Despite his title, Bishop Vigneron is just a human like the rest of us and his opinion and interpretations hold not an ounce more weight than any of ours.

Bill Luty

Promote civil unions
I doubt the public reaction to the recent California Supreme Court’s decision to declare the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional would be so heated and varied if the word “marriage” weren’t used.

In a recent news release of the California Catholic Conference, the bishops are accepting of domestic partnerships that “granted domestic partners spousal-type rights and responsibilities which facilitate their relationships with each other and any children they bring to the partnership. Every person involved in the family of domestic partners is a child of God and deserves respect in the eyes of the law and their community. However, those partnerships are not marriage . . . ” Marriage is a word. What reality does it signify?

California would do well to imitate the European model of civil unions for all couples who wish to be committed to each other. Those who wish could opt for a religious ceremony, subject to the criteria for each denomination. No church would be required to marry those who do not accept the teachings of the group.

The separation of church and state is one of the innovations of democracy in the United States. As our society becomes more pluralistic, it is inevitable that Catholics will become more counter-cultural, as Bishop Vigneron fears. But we will also become more remnant and witness to the teachings of Jesus.

This was so in the early Church and will be so again. And that will be our challenge — not to impose personal religious beliefs on civil society but to witness to those beliefs in our lives and our parish communities.

Marilynne Homitz

The opinions expressed in letters to Reader's Forum are the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Voice or the Oakland Diocese.

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